Bianca Breen reports from the Perth Festival ‘Running Your Writing Career Like a Small Business’
Surrounded by books and authors at the gorgeous Fremantle Arts Centre, the Perth Festival’s Writers Weekend kicked off with the much anticipated ‘The Business of Being a Writer’ event. Emerging authors spent several hours hearing from industry professionals on topics from marketing tips to building your profile to business advice for those just starting out.
First up, we heard from Fremantle Press. CEO Jane Fraser, Marketing and Communications Manager Claire Miller and Publisher Cate Sutherland spoke to author and moderator Yuot A Alaak about treating your writing career like a small business. As Yuot prefaced, ‘A writing career often entails much more than just writing.’
I couldn’t help thinking how lucky we are as writers in Western Australia to have a publisher like Fremantle Press in our corner, to provide support but also to be so transparent about the publishing industry and all its moving parts. Many new authors are unsure about what happens after a manuscript is accepted by a publisher, but the panellist were able to shed plenty of light on the process. Yuot also added warmth and humour to the discussion, as he often does.
What I enjoyed most about this panel was not just the insights into the stages of publishing, but what is expected from the author during those stages. Marketing Manager Claire Miller broke this down into the ‘Four Ps of Publishing’: planning, pitching, publication and persistence. The publisher handles the planning and pitching – which includes developing a marketing and communications plan for the book, designing the cover and layout of the book, pitching to sales representatives, journalists, reviewers, and much more. During the process, the author should take every opportunity to market themselves and their book by participating in interviews, building rapport with readers and booksellers and creating content for their social media channels. Building relationships with target readers is an ongoing and lengthy process. And, of course, persistence; something every writer knows as their work faces rejection after rejection.
Claire also hit us with some hard facts: There may be as many as 5,500 publishing entities operating in Australia and an estimated 23,000 Australian books published per year. Plus, there can be around 2 million books available to buy in the Australian market at any given time. But your publisher is in your corner, they are passionate about your book and want it to succeed as much as you do. And once your book is published, there’s so much authors can do to build their profile and gain exposure: write more books, conduct workshops, write articles, appear at events, share your writing journey on social media and attend book promotion events such as Love Your Bookshop Day and the Australian Reading Hour. But even if your career doesn’t quite take off as you planned, CEO Jane Fraser reminded the audience to ‘value the community that embraces your book.’
While some truths hit hard – such as the improbability of moving into a penthouse after your first book hits the shelves – the panel offered a hopeful note for aspiring authors. If you take the time to work on their manuscripts, publishers ‘can see what it is and what value and quality it has at that stage,’ said Jane. So keep going despite the rejections, take feedback on board and do your research – rejections may simply mean you haven’t submitted to the right publisher. So what is Fremantle Press looking for?
‘Something that captures us,’ revealed Publisher Cate Sutherland. ‘Great stories, well told.’
To hear the panel for yourself subscribe to the Fremantle Press podcast on your favourite app. Audio podcasts of the panel will be released in the coming months: https://podcasts.apple.com/au/podcast/the-fremantle-press-podcast/id1406701497
Bianca Breen is a volunteer at Fremantle Press and an emerging Children’s and YA fantasy writer with a passion for Australian authors and stories. She is the creator of YA for WA and a Social Media Champion at #LoveOzYA. She holds a BA of Creative Arts from La Trobe University and is one of the winners of the 2021 ASA/CA Award Mentorship Program.